They went as far as referring to it as “strategic national business” which should not be allowed to fall in foreign hands.
In this they have the support of unions affiliated to Swapo who salivate at the prospect of doling out stakes to self, cronies, friend, family. But as you guessed correctly, the interest of the labour aristocracy is to line their own pockets – show me a Swapo union leader who is not a director/shareholder in a major business and then I will eat my hat.
So Government may soon be in the exalted company of your own uncle Joshua Doore, selling you nails, paint, door frames, tiles and toilet seats, among others. I kid you not.
This will be in addition to solving the vexing national question of ‘struggle kids’, dealing with land reform, getting our education system to work, providing serviced land to address urban housing crisis, solving the boundary problem between South Africa and us, extorting more scholarships for own children from prospective investors and finding a non-Oshiwambo-speaking President. Our Government is indeed a busy one.
They reason that Government’s preoccupation with the assets of the late Pupkewitz is in pursuit of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). However, this will be fraudulent because despite Article 23 of the Constitution our country has neither a BEE policy nor an Act.
At least, Government promulgated an Affirmative Action Act which allows preferential treatment for the previously disadvantaged and women at the workplace. Thankfully, Prime Minister Nahas Gideon Angula was not entrusted with this task for it is him who was been entrusted to pilot the government’s BEE policy – now called NEEEF – for as long as he has been Prime Minister to no avail.
He recently tabled a skeleton of this policy in Parliament only to promptly withdrew it because he himself could see that it was simply not up to scratch.
Over and above everything else, it is the judicious management of the economy or the nation’s purse which separates the winners from the losers. And the rules are simple really. It’s similar to your household budget and the relationship between your banker and yourself in case of profligacy or an occasional need of unexpected expense.
Occasionally too, there may be a windfall from a departed caring uncle which, of course, comes in good stead. What has all these got to do with the shop you may wish to ask. The answer is everything because the preoccupation with the desire to sell toilet seats and door handles reveals a deep underlying confusion about what exactly the Government’s role ought to be in the process of (i) economic growth and (ii) addressing inequality –both of which are overarching objectives of the Fourth National Development Plan.
Unlike most countries, at two decades into independence, our economy is largely functional. Perhaps also a by-product of a democratic order we have elected unlike the one-party cul de sacs of the early 1960s. Twenty years into independence, most African economies were vassals with the few successful economies exceptions, rather than the rule. Most African countries have demonstrated that State ownership of everything does not necessarily translate in greater welfare for the citizens. Witness Angola and Gabon with healthy bank accounts and palatial properties in Europe and elsewhere for the elite whilst the citizens live in abject poverty.
Government’s role should be to help to increase the cake. Taking over an existing business hardly does this.
Should Government indeed be convinced about the economic rectitude of being a shopkeeper well, start your own one. Somehow the manner government destroyed the assets of the former NDC does not bode well for their entrepreneurial record. And then we are not talking about the degradation of the assets of SOEs. Government needs to get its ducks in a row on its economic philosophy. It is no longer any good to cite Article 98 of the Constitution. Perhaps there may be lessons for us in the recent Asian success of raising the living standards of their people in one or two generations.
Clear objectives a la NDP4 supported by committed political leadership baked up with the necessary resources may just do the trick. As for the shop we can see how a few cronies, including wannabe union leaders may be smiling to the bank. This will, however, not increase the welfare of the people which is the business government should be into.